Letter from Aura L. Weinstein, M.P.H. Director, Cancer Surveillance Program


Corning Tower The Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12237

Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H., Commissioner

Dennis P. Whalen, Executive Deputy Commissioner

December 13, 2001

Don Finch, Editor

FACTS Newsletter

Box 566

Kenmore, NY 14217-0566

Dear Mr. Finch:

The New York State Department of Health is conducting the Cancer Surveillance Improvement Initiative (CSII). CSII is a multi-part project designed to enhance the Department's cancer education and surveillance activities. This initiative is commonly known as the "cancer mapping project." Among the goals of the CSII is to make cancer information available to the general public in an easy-to-understand format. The CSII will produce maps of cancer incidence by county and ZIP Code, as well as information to increase public awareness of cancer rates and risk factors. Maps of breast, lung and colorectal cancer incidence by ZIP Code are currently available.

In August 1996, you wrote to the Cancer Surveillance Program requesting an investigation of the incidence of cancer in community residents living near the Linde/Praxair site located in the Town of Tonawanda, Erie County, New York. At that time, you felt there was an excess number of cancers in neighboring residents. You also expressed concern about possible health effects from potential exposures to ionizing radiation. As a result of the CSII, we were able to examine cancer incidence for the Linde/Praxair area by ZIP Code, rather than the study area originally discussed. The ZIP Codes chosen, 14150 (including point ZIP Code 14151), and 14217, (see attached map) are as similar as possible to the area originally selected.

A summary of the methods used to conduct this investigation and tables of findings are attached. The cancers studied were those frequently or occasionally associated with various types of ionizing radiation in a number of studies (Schottenfeld, 1996). As you can see from Table 1, the total numbers of both males and females diagnosed with cancer during 1994-1998 were statistically significantly more than the number of cases expected. In males, the number of colorectal cancer cases was significantly more than expected. No other type of cancer in males showed a statistically significant difference from the number expected. In females, statistically significant excesses were found in the number of cases of colorectal, breast, and thyroid cancers. Table 2 shows the results for all cancer sites.

Due to the finding of excesses of cancer cases both in total numbers as well as for certain individual cancers that have been linked with radiation exposure, we will be initiating a follow-up study of cancer incidence in a smaller area closer to the site. The study area will be defined in terms of census tracts and census block groups and the study will cover the most recent 10 year period for which cancer data are available. We anticipate that this follow-up study will be completed and released in approximately one year.

I have also included information on colorectal cancer, cancers of the breast and thyroid, and background information on cancer in general. It is important to remember that this type of study cannot tell us why the incidence of certain cancers in an area may be high. These studies can only show cancer patterns.

We hope this information helps to answer your questions about cancer near the Linde/Praxair site in the Town of Tonawanda. If you have any questions regarding this investigation, the follow-up study or any further concerns, please feel free to call me at (518) 474-2354.


/s/ Aura L. Weinstein

Aura L. Weinstein, M.P.H.

Director, Cancer Surveillance Program


Dr. Baptiste

Dr. Billittier, Erie Co. HD


Schottenfeld D. Ionizing Radiation. in Schottenfeld D and Fraumeni JF, eds. Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.